Isha Upanishad - Shloka 12

Andham tamah pravisanti ye’sambhuti –mupasate,
tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u sambhu-tyagm ratah
. (12)

Enter they into a blind darkness,
who resort to the worship of the manifest prakriti,
as if into a greater darkness go they
who merely contemplate upon the unmanifest Nirgun (Hiranyagarbha)


There is a sort of belief system in the Hindu way of life. You can believe in a god or not, you still remain a Hindu. There is ample freedom to the individual who can work out his own way to salvation by himself. Gita mentions five paths for the purpose and each individual is free to pursue any path of his liking. He may pursue the worship of god of his own choice or not worship at all and still remain a good Hindu. Hindu culture is deep rooted in the spiritual ethos of each individual working towards his own ultimate liberation as a fundamental goal of life. This is unique gift of Vedic philosophy to the world of spirituality. It has never stood for any organised process and central control. Of course there are organisations but they do not command or issue orders but exist only to make spirituality available to everyone without distinction and never aim at physical subordination or conquest of territorial integrity  and conversion.

The verses 12 through 14 describe  the various ways of choices that lead to the same goal. The term used in these verses is Sambhoot and Asambhoot.  Thinkers in their own way  interpret the meaning as these words can be used to denote different ways of worship though all forms ultimately leading to the same goal. Broadly speaking Asambhoot stands for the manifest. It  can be treated as prakriti or nature.  Sambhoot stands for the unmanifest Brahman, the primordial matter. The manifest is easy to grasp and pick up. It is as if a personal god or Ishta deva. The worship of the personal god leads to the path of devotion where as meditation on the Self or the Impersonal leads to the path of Knowledge or Self- Enquiry. The interplay of science and practical knowledge of life is always connected with spiritual pursuit. These verses point at the combination of both and point out that a proper balance of Pravritti and Nivritti; action and inaction and other such dualities of life may merge into one great unity. These verses have tried to justify that the integration of both is bound to lead us to the desired goal; though single handed these paths provide us with great relief and benefits.

In the above verse, the synthesis between nature (Prakriti) and Purusha has been expounded as Reality. Our limited vision and one-sided ideas fail to observe clearly the apparent looking duality as indeed non-dual. The individual is guided and governed by the understanding of nature as such. He understands Prakriti in sense of Maya, illusion or anything of the worldly object used by the beings of His creation. The whole universe is ever moving and changing and acting with various colours and different hues. Still it is inert.  It is obvious that it is far away, at a distance, removed from Reality, though in fact it is not unreal. Where there is prakriti, there has to be interplay of Purusha. “It is like the golden bird perched on the self same tree, infinite friends, the former eating the sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life while the latter looking on with detachment.”
Vedanta says that Purusha and Prakriti make the universe through the Hiranyagarbha.  It  was the first to be born from the brooding heat and was born before the five elements-–water, earth, fire, either and air. It enters into the cavity of heart of everybody, abides therein and perceives through the elements and senses. Nature guides all life on the world stage through the five elements. The individual is guided and governed by his understanding of nature.

True individuality is not exclusive but inclusive. An individual cannot advance either mentally or evolve spiritually in complete isolation. Society is his field of activity in affording him an opportunity to gain perfection. Then again, an individual is not merely an aggregate of Body Mind and Intellect, emotions and sentiments, ethical and aesthetical ideas but more than that. He is essentially divine.

At night, one retires to sleep, as if enters into a green room after hard toil and turmoil of daylong activity. He keeps the same dress as he has more acts to play. His part is not over and he has to prepare for another day. Life is a stage where men and women are merely players; actors come and go only after playing their parts. This is the worship of manifest nature where they also serve who stand and wait but one has to place himself at His command and disposal all the time. He has written the script and He alone knows all. We are only actors, a poor player, and a walking shadow, a puppet in His hands that struts and frets his hour upon the stage of life and then is heard no more.
The seer in this verse cautions us that the sheer worship of the Eternal apart from the God in the universe is a wasteful exercise. Divinity abounds in the world. God loves those who love their fellow beings. It is true that being enchanted by worldly temptations, the common person fails to see the glorious expanse.
Vedic Rishis realised that Brahman as creator or Supreme Consciousness is too abstract to follow and understand. Since everything in nature is God’s creation, so they simply connected the people with Brahman through an icon of personal choice of Ishta Deva as long as it remains only a symbolic representation of the Ultimate Reality; making it possible for all diversities to represent that single transcendental Reality. God exists everywhere and to fix Him in one place and direction while ignoring the rest of the sphere cannot be treated as a true devotion that leads to Eternal Bliss. Hence the pursuit of the Impersonal God on the path of Knowledge ignoring the vastness of the expanse is fraught with danger. Self – realisation is only possible through self-expansion. The pursuit of Brahman for the sole purpose of pursuit is a risky affair. It may end in abnegation of the self, leading to negation and nivratti but it can in no way lead to fulfilment of life for Eternal Bliss, hence the utter darkness for these giants.
Those people who worship the manifest prakriti should understand that the life is like an iceberg floating on the surface of the ocean of cosmic existence and  only a small portion of  that is visible at any given time. It is useful as far as the day to day life activities are concerned but not beyond that.  We remain tossed between pleasure and pain, success and failure, joy and sorrow, honour and dishonour but these are not very significant in the longer scheme of things and thus lead us to darkness.
The two words of Sanskrit, Sambhoot and Asambhoot contained in this verse are difficult to construe, not easy to follow. Sambhoot generally means something that is blissful, elderly-like. It may suggest contemplation on the Self or may be known as Samadhi. Asambhoot is that which is not Sambhoot, may be something different from it. It may be contemplation on the self but on the little “i” as against the Self of the Sambhoot, the Big Self “I”. There is a lot of difference between the contemplation on the self of an individual which is his ego self and the contemplation on the Self which is Soul. Ego is not blissful and one cannot attain enlightenment through it. It is full of emptiness or selfishness; rather it is self-negation or abnegation. No liberation is possible through contemplation on this self which resorts to different notions and lives on actions. Clearly such a person is destined to go to land of thick darkness.
On the other hand, there are people who devote themselves heart and soul into the pursuit of Eternal while ignoring other duties of life. They forget that the goal of life is both material and spiritual perfection of an individual. True individuality is not exclusive but inclusive. An individual cannot advance either mentally or evolve spiritually in complete isolation. Society is his field of activity in affording him an opportunity to gain perfection. Then again, an individual is not merely an aggregate of Body Mind and Intellect, emotions and sentiments, ethical and aesthetical ideas but more than that. He is essentially divine. He has to live in humanity and humanity is manifest in the individual.
Sambhoot generally means something blissful. It may be the contemplation on the Self or Samadhi-like station. Bliss can only be had when there is perfection and nothing is perfect without expansion of the Self. When one is absorbed in the Self, he finds the world also as real. and realised man does not see the world as different from himself. So it leads to elevation of humanity without the latter being aware of it. In the absence of such state, it can safely be presumed that the worshipper goes to darkness of ignorance.
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More by :  Dr. R. K. Lahri

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Views: 3857      Comments: 1

Comment very good explaination

Raval Rekha A.
22-Nov-2014 20:00 PM

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